Lawmakers in Congress have taken out a provision in a military spending bill that would have secured religious freedom protections for charities and federal contractors, according to reports.
The provision is called the ‘Russell Amendment,’ and was included in the House’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act, a military budget legislation which is passed on an annual basis. The Russell Amendment, introduced by Rep. Steve Russell, would ensure that organizations and contractors that have employment policies according to religious beliefs would still receive federal contracts and grants.
Those who opposed the inclusion of the provision called it discriminatory and worked to take it out from the bill. The provision was taken out from the bill on Wednesday.
In a letter, Democratic members of the Senate said the bill would “allow religiously-affiliated organizations receiving federal funds to engage in discriminatory hiring practices.”
“No one should be disqualified from a taxpayer-funded job based on their religion,” the letter continues.
In contrast, those who supported the measure argue that taking it out would cause the government to lose out on the work that many religious charities are doing for the vulnerable.
“The U.S. now risks losing the crucial work religious service providers do for communities with the support of federal contracts,” wrote Orrin Hatch in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal.
“Every day, stories of grace and mercy are being written as people of faith help those in need,” Hatch writes. “Catholic Charities has helped single moms fill their basic needs. The Mormon Church, through LDS Charities, has donated wheelchairs to hundreds of thousands of people. The University Muslim Medical Association Community Clinic in Los Angeles provides care for thousands of people in a desperate part of town. The Jewish Social Service Agency supports families of children with autism. Samaritans Purse provides disaster relief across the world.”
“This may have a devastating effect on the most vulnerable of populations — women who have been trafficked, children who are in refugee camps, veterans, people in the military,” executive director of Becket Fund for Religious Liberty Kristina Arriaga told the Christian Post.
Congress is set to finalize the bill later this week.